That’s what I was asked by one friend, a fellow student at Grand Valley State University, when I told him I had accepted an internship in downtown Detroit. Having only traveled to Detroit from my native Macomb for the occasional concert, I almost began to buy in to the doubt. What can I expect from an internship in Detroit? Is it safe? What is this mysterious “downtown” area? Those were the questions that wracked my mind in the weeks between accepting my offer and my start date.
Two months later I’m happy to say that my experience is nothing like my initial doubts and has been nothing but eye opening and exciting. My internship is with the coolest company in the Quicken Loans Family of Companies, Rocket Fiber. We’re a fiber-optic Internet startup, currently laying fiber under the streets of the central business district. This fall we’ll begin providing the downtown area with Internet that’s up to 100 times faster than what’s currently available.
I work as a copywriter on the brand team, and everything I’ve been involved with has been amazing. I’m writing copy for our website, brochures, and door hangers, and I also create posts for our blog (which, shameless self-promotion notwithstanding, you should totally read). Despite being an intern, I feel like a valued, contributing member of the Rocket Fiber team. Not once have I been ordered to make copies, get coffee, or any of the other typical tasks associated with internships.
The most important thing I’ve learned from my internship is that Detroit is not the hellish dystopia that my west Michigan friends seem to think it is. I often work on my laptop out in Campus Martius and love the environment there. I’m constantly discovering new places to eat around the city (Shangri La in midtown is my current favorite). There are bands playing in Campus Martius nearly every day, and countless more at all the venues and concert halls around the city. While there are still great strides to be made, the city is quickly becoming a destination spot. Before my internship here I had no intention of living in or anywhere near Detroit (or Michigan, for that matter), but now I’m strongly considering moving back here after graduation.
There’s something deeper than nightlife and restaurants that draws me to this city, though. One might call it the city’s spirit: that intangible thing that makes Detroit different from places like Chicago or New York. Detroit’s spirit was born of its proud past, and tempered by bankruptcy and blight. Many left the city during these dark years, and few could blame them. There seemed to be very little worth staying for. Those who did stay learned to endure. They banded together, and under the immense pressure of their surroundings, came out stronger—like a diamond from a lump of coal. And now, like a diamond, the city feels indestructible.
While I don’t live in the city and wasn’t here at its lowest points, its spirit is palpable. You can feel it when you walk down the streets. You can see it on the faces of those who have called Detroit home throughout the economic crisis. That’s why I want to stay here. As someone who has endured my own struggles, as we all must from time to time, I feel that I can learn something from Detroit and its citizens. Hardship is an inevitable part of life, and the clean, quiet suburbs of Macomb aren’t going to offer me the same lessons that Detroit can. While I’m excited to head back to Grand Valley to finish my degree, my plans for after graduation have changed—and Detroit is definitely a part of them.
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